What is Long-Form Content?
FYI, long-form content is also referred to as foundational content, cornerstone content and/or skyscraper content. As defined in the linked-to post above …
Long-form content can be anywhere north of the traditional 500, 600 or 700-word post. Most of it seems to fall in the 1,000 to 2,500-word range. Skyscraper content is really long – 4,000, 5,000, on up to 10,000-word content. So when you hear these terms, these are roughly the parameters that are being talked about.
John Lincoln, CEO of Ignite Visibility and a digital marketing teacher at the University of California San Diego defines long-form content in more concrete terms, writing:
My personal rule of thumb is that anything less than 1,200 words isn’t long-form content. I’d advise to aim for over 1,500 words, since 1,200 is (in my opinion) the minimum.
It took me about four hours to write the post, because it was very research intensive. As an aside, I kind of enjoy this type of writing – especially when it’s on something I’m really interested in – because I learn a ton. This particular post was for a content marketing firm for their blog, hence, the post contained tips on the various elements of content marketing.
The Rise of Long-Form Content
I predicted the popularity of this type of content in the post, The One Service Freelance Writers Should Be Offering in 2016 — Are You?, last fall. I knew it was coming because when I used to post freelance writing jobs leads, many of the requests from employers were for long-form content.
So why is this form of content so in demand, and what does it mean for you, as a freelance writer? The answer to the first part of the question is:
(i) Google: Statistics show definitively that this form of content is favored by the search giant. Proof?
In 2012, serpIQ conducted a study of the average length of content that appeared in the top 10 results of search queries. The findings? Top-rated posts were over 2,000 words, as the graphic just below illustrates. Also, on average, 10th position pages had 400 fewer words on the page than first-position pages;
(ii) Mobile: A Pew Study found that readers spend twice as much time on long-form content on mobile; and
(iii) Backlinks: In 2011, SEOmoz analyzed the content on their blog to see if there was a correlation between word count and backlinks and found that longer posts did indeed get more links. This is probably because longer posts allow you to really dig into a subject, hence, the information tends to be incredibly useful – and shareworthy.
(iv) Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI): Basically, LSI is used by search engines to determine what a web page is all about. For example, if your post is about “how to make an apple pie,” some of the (key)words and phrases Google would expect to find in the post are apple pie recipe, make homemade apple pie, make an apple pie crust, make apple pie filling, etc.
That’s because these are all related to the title of the post. You wouldn’t expect to find anything in the article related to “apple computers.” Although the word “apple” is in the phrase, it’s not related to making apple pie. Latent Semantic Indexing is how a search engine (computer) algorithm tells the difference.
What Does Long-Form Content Mean for Freelance Writers?
In short, more money. Because they are longer articles, you can (and most definitely should) charge more for them. Also, you earn more when you write long-form content, you will ostensibly have to take on fewer clients to earn the same amount of money.
It’s been my experience that most clients who order long-form content also continue to order shorter articles. For example, this particular client I completed the article for also orders two shorter articles of around 600 words per week.
All of this has to do with trying to stay in line with what Google rewards for the most part, ie, frequently updated sites with in-depth content.
How to Write Long-Form Content that Pleases Clients: 4 Tips
Now that you know why long-form content is so popular, following are four tips for how to create it effectively. The following is based on what my clients frequently request.
Lots of Links: Long-form content is created for backlinks – that’s what your clients will be hoping for. One of the ways to do this is to create what’s known as “ego bait posts.” Note: This can be research-intensive, so be sure to charge appropriately.
Keyword Rich: Create what I call a “hot circle” of keywords around which to write the post. Ask your client what keyword they want the post to target, then do additional keyword research (if they don’t give you a list of secondary and tertiary keywords) to come up with the circle you want to write around.
This does not mean that you should keyword stuff your post – in fact, it’s just the opposite. Work in only those keywords that read naturally in the post.
Lists: Lists (monster lists) make great long-form content, eg, The 50 Best Ways to ____, is much better than The 5 Best Ways to ______, no?
The thing I like best about writing lists for this type of content is that you don’t have to say a lot about each thing on the list to make a post long – and you can get in tons of links effortlessly. Lists are great “wide content,” as in, say a little about each thing, instead of a lot about a few, which brings me to my next tip.
Go Deep: This is when you focus on one element of a topic and discuss it from every possible angle. For example, let’s say you wanted to write a list of the 50 Best Ways to Find Freelance Writing Jobs. A wide list would cover things like email marketing, cold calling, social media marketing, job boards, etc.
But if you were to “go deep,” you would pick one marketing technique and write a detailed tutorial on it. See the difference?
Freelance Writers: How to Charge for Long-Form Content
I’ve set rates for some clients, and I’ve let some clients dictate their rates to me. Thus far, the clients I’ve let dictate rates are those who consistently order shorter posts, and will request a long-form post every few weeks.
Long-form posts can be tricky – some will be relatively easy to knock out; others will require more detail. Following is what I consider when I get a client order for a long-form post.
Keywords: Do they provide them, or will you have to?
Type of Content: There are so many different types, eg, lists, interviewing influencers, case studies, etc. So get clear on what the client wants.
Turnaround time: So far, I haven’t written a long-form post that didn’t take at least four hours (minimum 1,000 words). Again, these types of posts can be research-intensive. So just keep this in mind when you’re trying to come up with a rate.
Research material: Will the client provide you some, or will you have to do it all yourself from scratch.
One more thing you should know about creating long-form content – it tends to have lots of mixed media (eg, graphics, videos, slideshares, etc.). It breaks up the flow of all that text, and it gives search engines yet more “content” to grab on to.
Most clients won’t ask you for graphics; they’ll supply it themselves. But if you’re creating this type of content for your own blog, keep this insight in mind.
Long-form content is requested all the time nowadays. All you have to do is scroll job listings to see how popular it is. As a freelance writer, you should be prepared to offer it – and charge appropriately for it.
Hope you had a good weekend.
P.S.: Tomorrow’s post: Six-figure freelancer Laura Pennington gives some in-depth advice on how to speed up your freelance blog-writing process. And let me tell ya, she’s following her own advice. She been submitting posts so fast to me that I can barely keep up!
P.P.S.: Get in front of thousands of freelance writers. Submit a guest post.
P.P.P.S.: I’m Ready to Start My Freelance Content Writing Career
I hope all is well! I just wanted to let you know that this month marked the first month that my writing income surpassed that of my day job.
Thanks to your help and inspiration, I have more work than I know what to do with and have successfully landed a number of clients that give me recurring work. Thanks again for your advice!
SEO writing changed the trajectory of my freelance writing career. It can do the same for you!